I’m always amazed when watching people work in their browser. Even though the browser is the most used application on everyone’s computer, nobody takes the time to optimize and tune it up.
It’s like being a musician and playing with an instrument that is out of tune. How good do you think your performance will be? Are you going to enjoy the experience?
It’s the same when you’re working with a browser that is out of tune. Investing just a few minutes upfront to tweak it, can save you hours every day. Plus, the whole browsing experience will be much more satisfying.
Here are the most effective ways that I use to tune-up my Google Chrome.
By far the biggest time saver for me have been the built in search engines in Chrome.
Any time you use the search bar for a website, Chrome automatically saves that search bar address in the Search Engine settings. So if you want to search that website again, you can call it directly from the Chrome’s main address bar.
Just type the assigned letter for the website followed by space and the address bar is converted into the search bar for the particular website.
Here are some of the pages saved in my browser, followed by the “shortcuts” that I use.
You can go to “Settings >> Search >> Manage search engines…” and edit your search shortcuts to your heart’s content.
And here is how my address bar looks after typing “wd spacebar”:
So now every time I need to look up something on Wiki Dictionary for example, all I have to do is type “wd spacebar DEFINITION”. Boom and I’m there in 3 seconds.
What does the typical Chrome user do instead?
- [2 sec] Google the Wiki Dictionary website (because who even bothers remembering URLs nowadays?)
- [2 sec] Wait for the search to load.
- [2 sec] Click on the Wiki Dictionary link from the search results.
- [2 sec] Wait for the Wiki Dictionary home page to load.
- [2 sec] Look for the search bar.
- [3 sec] Type the search terms that you need.
Why would you go through all that trouble for every search that you do? You can jump straight to step 6 and save yourself 10 seconds every time.
Think about how many searches you do every day and how much faster you can be if you save 10 seconds per search.
It’s such a simple and common tip, yet most people don’t have an effective Bookmarks bar.
To use your bookmarks effectively, they have to be prioritized and organized. A hodgepodge of randomly saved links doesn’t really help to be more effective.
Here’s how my Bookmarks bar looks now:
You have limited space on your Bookmarks bar, so use it wisely.
Clicking on a folder in your Bookmarks bar opens a nice little drop-down menu. It takes one extra click to get to the stuff inside, but it’s still super quick.
Group similar links or links that you don’t use that often in folders.
If you don’t want to use folders for everything but still want your links to be organized, use separators.
You can get a great looking separator at separator.mayastudios.com by just dragging their link to your toolbar. You can see how the separator looks on my toolbar above.
You can even use horizontal separators for items within a folder.
Name your links
Usually, when you save a link, it names it with the full page’s name. That’s just a waste of space. Plus, it looks terrible.
Use short, descriptive names that don’t take a lot of space but are still meaningful to you.
For some links, you don’t even need a name. Just the icon might be enough to recognize the link.
Hotkeys are another aspect of browsing quickly that most users ignore. With hotkeys, you can skip most tedious, time-wasting mouse clicks. They’re even more effective if you’re on a laptop and have to use a trackpad.
Here are the most common and useful hotkeys that I use constantly.
- [Ctrl + N] — New window
- [Ctrl + Shift + N] — Incognito mode
- [Ctrl + T] — New tab
- [Ctrl + Shift + T] — Reopen the last closed tab
- [Ctrl + Tab] — Jump to the next open tab
- [Ctrl + Shift + Tab] — Jump to the previous open tab
- [Ctrl + F4] — Close the current tab
- [Ctrl + Shift + B] — Show or hide the Bookmarks bar
Did your Bookmarks bar suddenly disappear? You probably hit this one by accident.
- [Ctrl + H] — Open the History page in a new tab
You can also view the browsing history from all devices logged in with your account.
- [Ctrl + J] — Open the Downloads page
Besides the bottom bar when downloading a file, you can also see a list of all downloaded files at the Downloads page.
- [Alt + D] — Jump to the address bar
This one is by far the coolest. Don’t mouse click on the address bar. Just hit Alt+D and start typing.
- [Ctrl + F] — Find
Search anything within the page.
- [Ctrl + 0] — Return everything on the page to default size
Zooming in and out in a page? This is a nice way to get back to the default quickly.
You can find an exhaustive list of all Chrome hotkeys here (including for a Mac).
Some of these can be hard to remember for a new user. It really helps to keep a little cheat sheet next to your monitor and quickly glancing at it every time you need the command.
The beautiful thing about Chrome is that there are thousands of developers creating extensions that make your life easier. You can find extensions for just about anything that you might imagine on the official Chrome Web Store page.
Here are the ones that have helped me work faster the most.
A very convenient extension that lets you speed up or slow down videos directly in your browser. It works with most videos online and it’s great if you’re watching tutorials or educational videos. Sometimes I speed up some videos x3 times, and I can still understand everything.
YouTube already has an implemented function to speed up their videos, but the advantage of this extension is that you can do it with a keyboard shortcut. Much more convenient than clicking the YouTube menus.
This one should be included in Chrome by default in my opinion. It saves you so much clutter and distraction on pages that have ads.
I can’t tell you how many times this extension has saved me after a crash.
It automatically saves everything that you type in Chrome. So if your browser crashes or you accidentally close it, Lazarus will “resurrect” your message with a click of a button.
If you’re an Evernote user, there is no better way to save notes from your browser. You can set a custom hotkey and save any page with a single click.
If you use Todoist (which is the best to-do app,) this extension is a must have. It lets you add new tasks with one click. You can also add web pages and emails directly to your to-do list and access them easily later. The extension keeps the link info.
Have you ever wanted to turn off all images on a website? Either to make it faster or just to focus on the text?
With this extension, you can disable all images with just a single click.
Are you tired of the annoying pop-ups asking for your email on most websites? Yeah, me too. This extension lets you get rid of them with one click.
This extension doesn’t directly make your browser easier to work with, but it will help get you in the zone.
It creates amazing white noise sounds that help you concentrate. If you can’t focus while listening to music, but you still want something nice to play in the background, this one is for you.
The default “new tab” page of Chrome is just a search bar with the most recently visited pages. Unfortunately, you don’t have any control over the links that show up on that page.
SpeedDial3 lets you design your own “new tab” with the pages that you’d like to see. It’s much like saving Bookmarks, but instead of having the links in the Bookmarks bar, you’ll have them when you open up a new tab.
To use mouse gestures you also need an extension, but I think this one deserves to be in a different category. If I had to choose just one type of extension for Chrome, it would be for this one.
Simply put, using gestures means making pre-recorded movements with the mouse that the browser recognizes and converts to assigned commands.
Why is that so cool? Well, imagine that you can point at the monitor and the browser recognizes your gesture and does what you want it to. It’s exactly like that, except that you’re “pointing” with your mouse.
Gestures are more intuitive and easier to use than keyboard shortcuts. Plus, you don’t have to take your hand off the mouse to trigger a certain command.
How to use gestures?
There are many extensions that help you with gestures, but my favorite one is CrxMouse. It’s got all the functionality that you’ll ever need and at the same time it’s easy to set up and start with right away.
The way you “point” with your mouse is by clicking the right button and dragging the mouse in a certain direction.
Here are some of the default mouse movements, or gestures, that the extension recognizes.
← : back
→ : forward
↑ : scroll up one page
↓ : open a new tab
↓→ : close current tab
↑↓ : refresh
←↑ : reopen closed tabs
→↓ : scroll to bottom
→↑ : scroll to top
So for example, if you need a new tab, don’t click on the new tab button or use the keyboard hotkey, just hold down the right mouse button and drag down. Boom, the new tab is created.
See how much easier it is?
Sync between devices
An amazing function of Chrome is that it automatically syncs up everything between your devices. All you have to do is log in with your Google account and all your bookmarks, passwords, history, settings, and extensions will be saved on the cloud instead of the local machine.
So when you log in with your Google account on another computer, everything is exactly the same as you set it up on the original machine.
Don’t play with an out of tune browser anymore. Take just 30 minutes to optimize it, and the internet will seem like a much nicer place.